Newsbrief: Justice Department Using Pre-Written Op-Eds to Shill for Mandatory Minimums 8/20/04

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In response to increasing pressures to undo the harsh mandatory minimum prison sentences that have made the US the world's incarceration leader and the federal prison system the fastest growing in the country, the US Justice Department under Attorney General John Ashcroft is striking back. The Justice counteroffensive is centered on an op-ed piece supporting mandatory minimums written at Main Justice in Washington but being pitched to newspapers across the country under the signature of local US Attorneys. The "astroturfing," or attempting to fake a grassroots upswelling of support for mandatory minimums, was first unearthed by Families Against Mandatory Minimums ( and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers ( last week, and noted by at least one newspaper, the Knoxville (Tennessee) News Republic, this week.

The op-eds extol the virtues of mandatory minimums and warn that the Supreme Court's Blakely decision, which held that juries, not judges, must find facts that lead to longer sentences, jeopardizes "the safety of America." According to NACDL, the same op-ed has appeared in at least three separate newspapers across the country under the names of three different, local US Attorneys. The News Republic this week found the op-ed published in three Tennessee newspapers alone, under the names of two different US Attorneys.

US Attorney Sandy Mattice, the chief federal prosecutor for East Tennessee and "author" of two of the op-eds, told the News Republic, the op-ed bearing his name was based on "a model" provided by the Justice Department. Prosecutors were "encouraged" to use the model, he said, "but I had complete autonomy in editing."

The Justice Department has reason to wage war to preserve mandatory minimums and reason to flood the country with op-eds this month. The American Bar Association general assembly this week passed a resolution condemning mandatory minimums. That vote came in response to the association's Justice Kennedy Commission report, ordered up by the group after Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy criticized the federal criminal justice last year (

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Issue #350, 8/20/04 Editorial: Count the People | What We Are Watching at Drug War Chronicle | California Patients Sue to Get Seized Marijuana Returned | Recount of Nevada Marijuana Initiative Petitions Underway Following Federal Court Ruling | DEA, Academic Pain Specialists Issue New Guidelines on Prescribing Pain Relievers | Newsbrief: Canadian Marijuana Activist/Entrepreneur Marc Emery Jailed for 90 Days | Newsbrief: DEA Raids Massive California Medical Marijuana Grow | Newsbrief: Justice Department Using Pre-Written Op-Eds to Shill for Mandatory Minimums | Newsbrief: DEA Training Narcs in India | Newsbrief: Death Squad Killings Continue in Philippines, Civil Society Begins to Protest | Newsbrief: Iraq Reinstates Death Penalty, Includes Drug Trafficking | Newsbrief: Medical Marijuana "Sends Wrong Message" Claims Challenged By Decreasing California Teen Marijuana Use | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story | Media Scan: Chicago Reader on Tribune-Hemp Connection, Counterpunch on California and Medical Marijuana Doctors | Part-Time and Temporary Job Opportunities at DRCNet | Job Opportunities at MPP | The Reformer's Calendar
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